CoreOS debuts 'self-driving' Kubernetes

Tectonic software shifts to free for up to 10 nodes

CoreOS, maker of a minimalist version of Linux and software for containers, has made Tectonic, its Kubernetes management application, capable of automatically updating K8s clusters.

It also made Tectonic free for up to 10 nodes. Previously the software had to be acquired through contact with the company's sales department. Now it's available for download to those who have created Tectonic accounts.

In a phone interview with The Register today, Alex Polvi, CEO of CoreOS, said adding the ability to update distributed clusters is "one of the most technically sophisticated things we've ever built."

The challenge might be likened to renovating a house while living inside it: Replacing the floor you're standing on requires finesse.

CoreOS describes Tectonic as "self-driving" infrastructure that can help organizations keep Kubernetes deployments patched and secure.

The term "self-driving" has a certain cachet in Silicon Valley, thanks to Google, Tesla, and Uber, among others. While it may imply more intelligence than "automated" – a synonym suggesting rote responses – the distinction dies on impact with reality: The fatal crash of a Tesla under Autopilot control in June made it clear that self-driving technology, under any name, isn't necessarily safe.

Alongside more timely access to software improvements from the open source community, Polvi said security represents one of the primary motivations for introducing automated updating in Tectonic.

Pointing to the "onslaught of security updates" faced by IT administrators, Polvi said, "Whenever there's one of these bugs, IT personnel have to stop what they're doing and fix it. We believe that's one of the core reasons the internet is broken. If we can automate those fire drills, it will benefit companies and the internet at large."

At the same time, Polvi acknowledges that Tectonic's auto-updating capability isn't yet safe enough for production usage, calling it an alpha release. "It's like when Tesla introduced its Autopilot feature, they didn't remove the steering wheel from the car," he said.

CoreOS also said it has contributed several improvements coming in Kubernetes 1.5 in a few weeks. These include: scheduling improvements; etcd v3 speed improvements; container image policies; and easier testing and installation. ®

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